There are going to be days when you dont have enough customer service staffing to meet demand. Things like flu epidemics, holiday seasons, and tricky new product releases are going to happen, and no matter how well you planned, youre going to have to work with fewer agents than youd like. Its unfortunate and a giant pain, but its also inevitable, so its best to have worked out a strategy for dealing with this situation.
The first thing you want to do is let your team know. Explain to them that youre running short and that you really need them to work with you to deal with the problem. Keep them engaged by explaining why you are behind, not just asking them to work more. Its also a great time to make sure you are using your rewards and recognition strategies to help keep them motivated through the longer hours.
Cancel all of your meetings and ask your staff to do the same. In fact, any non-essential activities should be postponed. Right now, you need to focus on right now. If the busy workload is going to be extended past a day. Its best to schedule extra hours and set clear expectations regarding how much extra time people can work, and what your expectations are during that time.
Take a look at the days work. Are there any tickets that dont need to be answered right away? If so, dont. Save them for a day when youre not understaffed. Are there any simple tickets that someone from a different department can answer? If yes, see if you can get some help from the other department heads. Marketing, sales, product management--often times tickets are directed to them anyway. If youre customer focused, most--if not all--employees in the company should have some basic training in how to respond to support tickets.
Are you the kind of team that likes to go out for long lunches? Not today. in fact, lunch might have to be on you. If you can, bring in lunch (and other goodies) for your agents on the company dime. It lets your team know that you appreciate their hard work.
The most important thing is to stay calm and focused. One way or another, the day will end. Its up to you determine what kind of day it will be.
At the Helm is a series for anyone who manages customer service professionals. These tips, best practices, and philosophies are designed to help you manage a team that is primed to give your customers the best possible service.
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